My academic training is in communication. I am reminded of all the things I do not know every time I have a conversation with my father-in-law who is an engineer or my friend who works as a recreational therapist with physically challenged youth. I like to think of myself as well rounded, but the most important life/academic lesson I have learned is when to ask for help.
This lesson is most important when dealing with students in crisis. We are teachers, mentors, and field area experts, but rarely possess the training or experience to properly assist a student in a time of deep psychological distress. There are as many different profiles of students in distress as there are students. The young man who is away from home for the first time and feels crushed by responsibility, the student who was been the victim of sexual assault, the young women poised to be the first family member to graduate, but riddled with anxiety about what happens next, the high achieving student who appears confident but is actually struggling through a family crisis, and an infinite number of other variations and combinations. The one thing these hypotheticals have in common is that we as faculty members are only a part of the puzzle in supporting the student, not the whole picture.
There are so many places where students and faculty can find support when dealing with these difficult scenarios. The Counseling Center is the resource we most often think of, but in many situations Student Judicial Affairs, The Health Center, University Police, or an Associated Students organization like the Gender and Sexuality Equity Center may also be able to offer help.
The first move often falls to you as the faculty member, you need to pick up the phone and ask for help. Even if you call the wrong unit, you can be directed to the right one. When students confide in us or seek guidance about an issue putting them in crisis. What we have to realize is that most often they are doing so because they need some help, and while we may not be the ones to provide it, we can help them get it.